ALUM SPOTLIGHT : MEGAN BENT
[1.13.2015] It has been less than 3 years since Megan Bent attained her MFA but she has already accomplished so much! We caught up with her today to learn what she’s been up to, and how it might relate to her UHM experience.
Megan: I realized early in my MFA program that the topic of disability was at the forefront of my artistic practice. I grew up with a sibling who has an intellectual disability, and was diagnosed with a chronic disease myself. This motivated me to take courses at the UHM Center on Disability Studies while I was an art student, ultimately graduating with an MFA and a Graduate Certificate in Disability and Diversity Studies. My thesis committee was comprised of faculty from both departments.
While at UHM I also participated in the photography collective Analog Sunshine Recorders (ASR). I was accustomed to photography being a solitary experience but ASR highlighted how it could also be collaborative and community building. Using photography as the common denominator members built friendships, went on adventures to make work, and created photographic installations around Honolulu.
I’ll have to say that ASR and the duo areas of my degree continue to inform my life. I currently live and work in the L’arche Tahoma Hope community in Tacoma – community of people with and without intellectual disabilities who work together and share life. L’arche is an international organization that has 146 communities in 35 countries around the world. I just started a photography club and am planning an exhibition of our work in downtown Tacoma, WA in the summer/fall of 2015.
This April (2015) I will also be presenting my artwork and research at the Western Social Sciences Conference in Portland, OR. Presenting in the Chronic Disease and Disability section, I will examine how photography and video have been used to label people with disabilities as Other since their inception. Conversely I will show work by contemporary artists explore disability as a source of knowledge, power, and a marker of identity.
UHM: I remember how riding a bicycle was such in integral part of your work during your MFA. Still so?
Yes! Towards the end of my time at UHM I started getting involved in events through the Arthritis Foundation. I was particular inspired by their annual cycling tour called the California Coast Classic, an 8-day 525-mile bicycle trip down California’s Highway 1, to raise awareness about arthritis. This September will be my third ride. Along with being a cyclist I also have been photographing the ride with my Holga camera. Using this camera that is prone to imperfections due to the camera’s body not fitting together perfectly, became a tool for me to highlight the beauty of imperfections within my own body.
I exhibited some of the resulting images last summer at The Bridge PAI in Charlottesville, VA. The project was partially supported by an artist SOUP micro-grant. I plan to keep riding and photographing, and eventually turning the images into a book.